Hurricane Damage to St. Elizabeth though Severe, not as Extensive


Relatives of persons living in St Elizabeth can breathe a sigh of relief, as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has said that the impact of Hurricane Dean on several communities that have been the subject of concern, was not as extensive as initially anticipated.
Director of Information and Training at the ODPEM, Kretchet Douglas-Greaves, attempting to assuage concerns raised by persons, who have not been able to make contact with friends and relatives residing in these areas, due to disruptions in phone service, told JIS News that “initial reports have been that the damage to St. Elizabeth primarily was not as extensive, though severe in some instances, as we initially thought.”
She added that the agency has utilized other mechanisms to gain information not readily available through phone contact. “We are aware of the situation and we have deployed regional coordinators on the ground and we are in constant dialogue with the respective parish disaster committees, so information is being fed to ODPEM through this mechanism through the zonal committees, through the parish disaster committees,” she explained.
According to Mrs. Douglas-Greaves, the telecommunications companies are working to restore communication links to St. Elizabeth, and parts of St. Thomas and Manchester, where telephone lines are also down.
“It is sometimes difficult but we have a team here that continuously tries until contact is made, so we have a reasonable idea of what is happening on the ground and if an emergency response is needed,” she stated.
She told JIS News that while there are no confirmed reports of injuries from St. Elizabeth, however “we have been getting some on-the-ground information that we have sought necessary to investigate. We are in the process of acquiring contact numbers for the relevant persons and communities that we have received on the ground reports about, so that as a precautionary measure, we can initiate contact and see if the situation in fact merits intervention.”
She was unable to provide names of the specific communities reported on, but said that these are “primarily fishing communities.”
In the meantime, Mrs. Douglas-Greaves informed that damage assessment teams have been deployed to commence appraisals in the various parishes, starting on Monday (Aug. 20), with an aerial assessment.
“A general aerial view was taken of the country to facilitate early reporting to our local and international donor agencies. As far as a more detailed damage assessment is concerned, the process is ongoing and in short order, we should have the relevant information for communication to the public,” she informed JIS News.
In terms of damage to the road network, she revealed that a total of 46 main thoroughfares in several parishes have been impacted with 17 having single lane access, 27 roads have been blocked by debris and erosion, and two are fully inundated. “These roadways primarily emanate from the Kingston metropolitan area, and the western and northern sections of the island,” she informed.
“As far as power is concerned, well over 250,000 homes are without electricity. The Jamaica Public Service Company is aware and they have reported that efforts are being made to return the country to normalcy in terms of the return of power supply in very short order,” she told JIS News.

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